Friday, June 5, 2009

here i go again...

hi guys!

Veganism will never, in my view, be a widely accepted lifestyle choice…ever. And not because it isn’t a gorgeous way to live (because it is…); not because it is a deprived and grim way to eat (because it isn’t…); not because it’s too weird or left of center (okay, I’ll give you that one…). No, veganism will never thrive because a lot of vegans will not allow it.

I was reading an article recently…written by a good friend of mine, someone I love and adore, respect and admire. I was so upset by what I read that I thought my head would explode. Maybe it’s me, but the attitude he displays in the piece shows me arrogance underneath the supposed compassion he professes.

The article was all about the word vegan and its proper use. You may say, huh? I did. You know that joke I make about not being ‘vegan enough’ for most vegans. I think it may be true, sadly. Apparently, you may only use the word ‘vegan’ to describe yourself if you choose this compassionate way of living in order not to contribute to cruelty to animals. (It’s apparently okay to be mean to people, just not animals…). And before anybody goes nuts and writes me about compassion and animals, I am all in for that, so save your breath.

The article said that according to Donald Watson’s description of veganism (he being the founder and definer of the movement that splintered off from vegetarian groups over the use of dairy foods) vegans are those who choose this life to prevent…or at least not contribute to…cruelty to animals. To this line of thinking, the article went on to say that if you are choosing vegan living for personal health or environmental causes, then it would serve better to say that you eat a ‘plant-based diet’ and leave the word ‘vegan’ to those who are truly committed to the cause. And why? Because you might change your mind and give veganism a bad name…or so that was implied.

Here’s my beef (yes, I know…) with this thinking. I am a teacher of vegan/macrobiotic cooking and many of the students who have come through classes were not looking to change their thinking completely. Most of them were just trying to get a bit healthier and since I make this look so easy, delicious and fun on television, they wanted to give it a go. Most of them didn’t know what they were getting into; but many of them changed their lives and now embrace vegan living, compassionately in harmony with the world around them. Some chose to eat a vegan diet, but not embrace activism. By the thinking in this article, I should have turned them away, advised them to take a different approach and come back to me when they had their priorities in order. After all, it’s only about the animals if you are vegan, right?

To ignore personal transformation and to discount the idea that transformation begins with the physical is silly and arrogant, to say the least. If some vegans remain aloof and exclusive, shunning everyone who doesn’t embrace the cause of animal rights, they don’t get to wonder why people are not flocking to join them. They seem to forget that change; true change has to occur at the most primal, visceral level…physically.

When people are drawn to plant-based eating, it is most often for personal health, but how else can we truly transform our thinking, our hearts, our very beings if we do not first, make our bodies healthy and strong and feel for ourselves the power of natural plant-based food. From that physical transformation, the human psyche is freed to think about loftier ideals and to contemplate the plight of the world and all the living beings in it.

We all have to start somewhere. If personal health is what draws you to vegan living, then I welcome you with open arms. By virtue of mere diet change, people who choose veganism for all the ‘wrong reasons’ change themselves, reduce cruelty; grow more compassionate as their bodies heal and strengthen and they leave a lighter footprint on our fragile planet…oh, and they care for the welfare of animals.

It seems to me that some of us vegans have lived too long in a bubble, surrounding ourselves only with people of similar thinking. Many have lost touch with the idea of reaching out, in compassion, to other humans and helping them along in their path of life.

Buddha said that the responsibility of each man, woman and child is to make the lives of those around them better and to aid each living being we meet on its path to enlightenment. Each person we meet is a gift to us and we a gift to them. But if we push them away because they make choices differently than we do, then how can we ever inspire them?

If being ‘vegan enough’ means shunning the brilliant humans I meet because they choose their vegan lifestyle for health, then I think I am happy to fall short of the standards set by this exclusive sect. I prefer to welcome all people, students, friends and family to my lifestyle and see how physical change transforms them to live lives of compassion and peace. Semantics mean little to me when health, peace and the lives of living things are at stake.

Maybe my crazy vegan life is crazier than I thought…but I love every vegan moment of it…in good health.



Luke said...

Cool rant

Ree said...

Thank you again for all you do. I find your cooking style fun and inspirational. I may not be Vegan enough either but I'll take what I am just the same.

Luke said...

I love Michael Pollan's thoughts on food.

nygiantsfanatic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nygiantsfanatic said...

I recently bought This Crazy Vegan Life and just began reading it. I watched my brother-in-law deteriorate and then die from a massive heart attack from the food choices he made. He was 51. His wife died at 48 one year later. She had sepsis. She got it from a perforation in her intestines due to diverticulitis. She got THAT due to the way she ate. McDonalds 2-3 times a day EVERY DAY for 8 years. Pizza, junk food, a 6-pack of Diet Pepsi a day. Is your stomach turning yet? I'm not the poster child of nutritious eating but I try very hard. I really am leaning more and more towards most ways. I still eat fish. Due to a recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis I have stopped eating dairy products and I am now working on a gluten-free diet as well. It's hard. Your book is one thing that is helping me along the way. Thank you for sharing it! Angie

Gweithgar said...

Thank you! It really was your open inclusiveness that made veganism accessible for me. I also find that quite a few groups of online vegans are very protective of their particular path; you either conform (or pretend to) or you get the heck out of their space. They mostly won't even discuss views that differ from their own, and are frequently quite hostile about it. So I used to feel that, since I didn't want to be like them, maybe I couldn't be vegan. Meanwhile, the definition of vegetarian has stretched so much (eggs, dairy, etc.) that it doesn't fit the way I eat, either. And "plant-based" could mean just about anything! The US food pyramid is "plant based", it just doesn't stop with plants!

So I consider myself a vegan, garnished with quotation marks.

Barbara Allen Moore said...

I am one of those people who are fasinated by wild animal documentaries. Not because I have an overwhelming love of animals. I like them their fine but because I see in these other animals us. How we are in terms of creating societies. Every species is different in eating habits. They don't question if the others are right or wrong. Why do we? They just eat what is natural to them. Some apes are vegetarian but not all. There are sea creatures that eat each other. I'm learning to be vegan. Its hard not just in the giving up of foods that I was raised on. But also in that so many Vegans are different in their food choices. Some feature sugar, yes white sugar, in recipes. Others do not. Salt is another issue, as is soy sauce, ketchup, syrup, don't even get me started on the flour and bread issues, each book I read is another change. Is each theory fact or just opnion? So what can I do? Just choose whats best for me and what I like. With the cofusion of different Vegans opinions it is even more difficult. But we choose to see it as an adventure and a way to better our health. We have discovered some fantastic recipes along the way to help enrich our life.

Rachael said...

You are right on the money Christina. I am 'trying' to change my ways, for myself, to feel better and live longer. I have had some funny looks when I say I'm going to try going vegan, so I changed to saying that I am trying a plant-based diet. No funny looks from that one!

I found it quite odd. But, oh well! Hee hee.

shen said...

Dear, dear Christina,
Thank you so much for your inspiration!
Also, I so appreciated your article on compassion and veganism. This thinking is so much mine, as well, and I am grateful that you articulated these ideas!
I am enclosing a link to my dear friend Bob Thompson's column, which coincidentally coincided with your newsletter, although I'm hardly surprised.
I thank you, again and wish you a long and lovely life!
Shenoa Robinson

wwwgjsnet said...

I've arrived at page 74 of THIS CRAZY VEGAN LIFE. Seldom do I see such disciplined writing. Before I finish the rest of this great book, I must point out a serious error - first one I've seen so far - wherein you write:

"Yes, eggs are low in fat." FALSE.
2/3 of egg calories are from fat.


Gerhardt J. Steinke, FHB
Madison, WI and Freiburg, Germany.

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